"I hate the holidays!"
The comment slipped from my lips toward the general vicinity of Nancy, my beloved wife, during a discussion of all the things that needed to be done to make this a joyous season.
I could have said that even earlier than a month ago. I can remember the frustration I felt when Nancy asked me to carve our jack-o-lantern at Halloween this year. What a sticky, messy, smelly job! A job I thought was behind me when the boys grew up. I recall my reluctance in moving toward the kitchen table and strapping on the green, ballistic-vest-type apron that has served me well through pumpkins, briskets, and turkeys.
Oddly, what I can't recall right now is the stickiness, mess or smell that I so dreaded. Perhaps because all of that blurs next to the image of our four-year-old granddaughter standing next to me — encouraging me to make ol' Jack scarier — and the shadow of Nancy a few steps away, smiling and soaking in the moment of tradition.
My stomach tightened just before Thanksgiving. That's the day that Nancy's family gathers. For years, it was at the farm in Rising Star. The past several, it's been at our house. Not everyone can be there. But most are.
An occasion of such immense importance takes a lot of preparation. Nancy has polled the guests to make certain that favorite foods are on the table — even if it means having three kinds of potatoes instead of just two. And a dish of black olives and that cherry-cranberry salad that Nancy's mom made. But to spread such a table, many things must be done. Rooms must be cleaned, turkeys must be carved, silverware must be polished ... Three days of preparation are necessary for a couple of hours of eating.
My stomach relaxed pretty quickly into the process. I know my role in all of this. I love having family in our home — to see our kids and their families with aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, is a warming experience. And my joy is magnified because, unlike a lot of my days throughout the year, my place is next to Nancy as she stirs and pours and mixes. And then again, as she sits and visits and loves on people like there's nothing else to do.
The Christmas season is another stressor. Not because I am so involved, but because Nancy is. She's the prime mover in getting things done. She's the one who arranges the schedule for our Christmas time — a sometimes complex task now that the boys are married and must be shared with other families. She worries about the Christmas card list and forces me to write an occasional Christmas letter. She's our decorator. Nancy keeps track of what people want for Christmas. And, more often than not, she's the one who finds those gifts and wraps them.
I remember grimacing when our local radio station began playing non-stop Christmas music on December 1. "How will we stand this?" I asked Nancy. She smiled and agreed that it was a little early. She tuned the radio to a different station — one she really doesn't like all that much. I'm sure she's still smiling about that.
On the way to work a little while ago, I had the radio on. "Angels We Have Heard on High" was playing lightly as I reached the corner of our block. Without thinking, my thumb went to the volume control on my steering wheel and I boosted that wondrous song to sonic blast proportions. At the top of my voice, I sang "Gloria! In Excelsis Deo!" When I reached the traffic light, the melody was fading, yet memories were welling up.
- Halloweens (Nancy's birthday)
- Fourths of July
- New Years Days
- Times with family
Warm moments when the only thing that really mattered was being with family and friends.
Wherever you find yourself, I pray that you're having warm moments — and storing them away for those times when you might forget what it is that really matters.